#STEMSaturdays: Live Tweeting at a Conference


Conferences are a great way to impart a lot of knowledge on those who are attending. Yet, what if you want the greater community to know what you now know? Enter Twitter. With it being easily accessible on phones, tablets, and computers it allows you to share presentations live-time with only one catch: you have to say what you want to say in 140 characters or less.


I’d like to say I’m pretty good at live-tweeting presentations while at conferences. At a recent conference in Tasmania, I was known as “that twitter girl” when I was introduced to new people because the hashtag (we’ll talk about what this is below) was basically just me. Oops. #sorrynotsorry

In my defense, live-tweeting allows me to write down the information shared, serving as notes for me to refer to later on… it just happens to be notes on a public platform so others can learn as well!


Some things of live tweeting just can’t be learned or controlled. For example, I type very fast, allowing me to simultaneously type as the person speaks. Other times the venue doesn’t have internet, or has slow internet, practically eliminating your ability to live-tweet. And maybe it’s neither of those things and some presenters just aren’t comfortable with you live-tweeting their work (which is 100% okay), meaning you should put your phone away and just enjoy the presentation (or take notes via notebook). 


Here are some tricks I have that help me efficiently live-tweet:


  • Learn the hashtag of the conference. Save it to your phone. Whenever you go to a conference nowadays, they usually have a hashtag. A hashtag (#) is used on social media sites (especially Twitter) to identify messages pertaining to a specific topic. For example, if you look up the hashtag #sharks on Twitter, you 95% of the time will see tweets about the animal while the other 5% will be about the NHL team. Once the hashtag of the conference has been learned, use it on EVERY tweet that pertains to the conference- this includes any social functions, talks, tea times where you meet people, poster events, etc. I tend to save it on my phone so I can just “paste” it at the beginning or end of the tweet.


  • Be on the lookout for Twitter users. Some presenters will showcase their twitter handle at the beginning, end, or throughout their presentation. If so, add their username (for example, @mcmsharksxx) to your tweets pertaining to their presentation. Before the presentation starts, try to fit their presentation title in a tweet and who is the presenter (e.g. “Adrienne Cruz is next in room C: “The debate between coffee v tea” #FAKECONF17”). Say I was the one giving the presentation—your tweets should begin or end with “#FAKECONF17 @mcmsharksxx” so not only can you connect with me, but I can retweet (RT) your tweets and people can see that I was the only talking about x topic. If they don’t have a twitter (which does happen), add the last name of the presenter (e.g. “#FAKECONF17 Marquez”) to your tweets. I sometimes include what room of the conference I’m at because it lets people know I’m in a specific area (if they want to meet up) and what the ‘theme’ of the room will be for the time being.


  • Be mindful of those presenters who DO NOT want their presentation live-tweeted. Not everyone is keen on having their presentation –or part of it—aired on Twitter. Please be mindful of that and respect their wishes. Some will declare their presentations as twitter-friendly or not, and may even have “no photos” or “no tweets” signs on key slides that may have raw data and they do not want publicised just yet. If you have live tweeted a presentation and the presenter asks you to delete the tweets, please be respectful of their wishes and take it down immediately.


NO signs.JPG


  • Turn your phone noises down. Nothing more annoying than hearing your keyboard going “tick-tack” the whole time or hearing any other distractions coming from your direction. Be courteous of those presenting and silence your phone so those around you can enjoy the talk as well. On that vein of thought, if you happen to get a phone call during the presentation, excuse yourself and leave the room to take it. 


  • Make sure you are connected to WiFi (if available). Twitter takes up a lot of data. See if your conference venue has WiFi (usually conferences will tell you this ahead of time) and then find out the password. This is especially important if you are abroad—roaming charges are quite awful (and expensive). 


  • Make sure you have an extra battery. Twitter also takes up quite a bit of your battery power. I have a portable battery that I charge every night so that I can use it all up when I’m in a pinch. I always bring two charging cords (you never know when one might go missing) as well as a wall charger in case there are any working outlets (it helps preserve my portable battery’s power, too). These can be relatively cheap and found easily enough on Amazon or your local electronic store.  


  • Know the ways to conserve your phone/device battery. Every phone is different, so my tips may not work for you. However, putting my brightness level at its lowest setting, on night mode and with no other applications running in the background helps my battery last a wee bit longer. My phone also allows me to put it in “low battery mode” which “temporarily reduces power consumption… mail fetch, Hey Siri, background app refresh, automatic downloads and some visual effects are reduced or turned off.” My battery also allows me to see percentage so I know when to start to charge again. There’s also the option of not tweeting as much—and for some topics that I don’t feel qualified to speak on, or quote the person on, I don’t tweet. 


  • Reduce the jargon. You’ve got 140 characters to work with, and some of those are dedicated to the hashtag and the presenter’s last name or Twitter handle. Your followers may all not be ‘experts’ in this area, either, so make it easy enough so people of all background can understand. If there is jargon that cannot be avoided, define it to the best of your ability.


  • Take pictures of the slides. This is not always recommended (see “Be mindful of those presenters who DO NOT want their presentation live-tweeted” tip) but proves useful when taking pictures of diagrams, photos of set ups, graphs, etc. For those who have a hard time seeing images, make sure you describe the picture so they are not left out. Again, always make sure that taking pictures of the slides is okay with the presenter.


  • Live-tweet your own presentation. Want to make sure your audience has specific information as a take-away message? Tweet your own presentation! Presenters now have the opportunity to live-tweet their own talk—we’ll discuss this in the next #STEMSaturdays post.


And that’s that! Hopefully you can put these live-tweeting tips to good use in your next conference.


Do you live tweet at conferences? Do you find it useful?


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here